Acts chapter 20           Next chapter          Back to Bible Studies

It is interesting that there are several phrases and concepts that are only found in Acts and in Paul's letters in the New Testament. One such is the phrase 'Church of God' as found in verse 28 of our chapter. We found further references to God's relationship with the church in Ephesians 5:23, Colossians 1:18 and Galatians 1:13.

Although this chapter deals with a lot of ‘travel information’ provided by Luke, there is one issue in particular which emerges on several occasions throughout the chapter concerning Paul’s character, starting in verse 1 where we read that ‘Paul sent for the disciples and, after encouraging them, said goodbye…’ We see this idea repeated in verses 10-12 where Paul raises the young Eutychus from the dead and comforting the believers. Then again in verse 22-32 Paul expresses His absolute commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ and the spiritual well-being of the believers, more than willing to spend and be spent for them. In verses 36-38 we also have a very touching picture of the believers kneeling down with Paul in prayer and embracing him, revealing the tremendous love between them.

This love is also clear from the following references: 2 Corinthians 2:4: “For I wrote you out of great distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to grieve you but to let you know the depth of my love for you”. 2 Corinthians 6:11-12 “We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. We are not withholding our affection from you…”  2 Corinthians 12:15: So I will very gladly spend for you everything I have and expend myself as well. If I love you more, will you love me less?” and Philipians 1: 3-4 I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy…”

More than anything these images declare the tremendous love that was in Paul’s heart – the very love of the Lord Jesus Christ himself. This contrasts so starkly with the picture we have of Paul earlier in Acts and especially in the following references. Acts 8:3:” But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison”. Acts 9:1-2:” Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem”. Acts 22:4: “4 I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison”  Acts 26:11: “Many a time I went from one synagogue to another to have them punished, and I tried to force them to blaspheme. I was so obsessed with persecuting them that I even hunted them down in foreign cities”. Seen in contrast, the references above and what we read about Paul in our chapter are so diametrically opposed that it arrests the attention at once. For us the great lesson here is not only that Paul’s conversion was very dramatic, but that he was at once filled with the love of the Lord Jesus Christ. Yes, we can say that Paul had knowledge, he had insight, he had visions, but more than anything else the love in his heart overflows in his letters. Let us all take a close look again at 1 Corinthians 13:1-13:”If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love”

Dear friends, how are our hearts? Do we display this kind of love…?.